Gaining customers and engaging with the market is one of the greatest challenges faced by early stage entrepreneurs, according to the Seed Academy Startup Survey. Without an identifiable name and brand, businesses are unable to move past the initial business phases and obtain enough clients to scale their businesses up. But there are many marketing platforms that can be used without suffering major expenses and can be leveraged easily to produce interest from potential income streams. The fundamental differentiator is in the content.

“A small business, like mine,” says Ryan Sooray, founder and manager of SaleWine, “cannot afford to advertise and market on a large scale. The margins on our products are tight and the overheads we incur are aimed at building our business infrastructure. So I need to make use of tools that are inexpensive but effective.” Sooray founded SaleWine four years ago and in this time has learnt some important lessons in effective communication.

Tip # 1

An easy way of estimating how much material should be included in a message, whether it is about a product on a newsletter or on social media platforms is that of the length of a tweet (140 characters). Today’s consumer does not have time to consume reams of content and won’t even engage in a message if it doesn’t capture their attention in two lines. A transparent, concise and accurate message that can be easily read and easily interpreted is more effective than a long story that takes up precious time of the customer. “We used to write a romantic story behind our featured wines and hope that would stir up and emotional response from our customers but in reality, all they wanted were the facts and a price. This applied to our commonly purchased stock, if there was something special and out of the ordinary, then people wanted to read more about it.” Sooray also found that geographic areas and the work culture of those areas played a part in the kinds of communication that was preferred, for example, shorter messages took preference in fast pace working circles and more detailed information was enjoyed by those who could afford a more lenient work pace.

Tip # 2

The POPI regulations state that the public is entitled to unsubscribe from unsolicited communication and you should give your customers an option of doing so. “There is no sense in cluttering someone’s inbox with useless newsletters, so if customers don’t want to receive your communication, let them go, it makes for a better experience and increases the chances the customer might return in the future, rather than trying to drag them back kicking and screaming” states Sooray. Trying to demand engagement with dead-end customers will only increase your costs and waste time that could be used on those that will become advocates for your business, and referrals are worth far more than broad based marketing approaches.

Tip # 3

Design your weekly communication to the typical work schedules of customers to capture the most responses possible. Sooray suggests that if you want to send out a newsletter at the beginning of the week, make sure that you keep the content as concise as possible. “In the early days, we wanted to drive traffic to our website but people did not have time to click on the links and search for the prices of the product they wanted. Sending a Friday mailer is something we find unique,” comments Sooray, “ we mix up our pricing and products and add some of our more unique wines onto that because people are thinking about the weekend and are more likely to want to find out a bit more and will then click through to the website.”

Tip # 4

Vary the approaches of communication whilst still maintaining the precision. Theorist say that it takes six repetitions to commit anything to long term memory, and the majority of working South Africans have access to more than one method of communication, so the information can be circulated in various ways to reach customers more than once and trigger engagement. “Also make sure your information is correct, there is nothing worse than being given an incorrect price and finding out later that it was higher than anticipated. This makes customers feel lied to and cheated for their attention and will turn them off your business completely with very little chance of re-engagement, so make sure your information is accurate.”

These 4 tips are simple yet effective ways that startups can reduce marketing costs and retain those customers that will generate profit into the future and maintain a public presence without spreading their efforts far and wide.